Out of Gas
The Rutgers women's soccer team spent an entire season trying to hide it. And up until the final second faded off the clock yesterday afternoon, the stat sheets this season barely hinted at the cold fact that the Scarlet Knights were a battered team.
As the second half went on in RU's second round NCAA Tournament match with South Carolina, names like Gina DeMaio, Jonelle Filigno, Caycie Gusman, Ashley Jones and Merissa Smith resonated even more than if the five fallen starters were actually playing.
It was not that the Scarlet Knights did not have the talent or even the opportunities to win the match. But, being five players short on the offensive end of the field, the Knights were gassed. As valiant as their last efforts in the final minutes were — they weren't enough — as the Knights lost the match 1-0, eliminating them from the NCAA Tournament and ending its season.
"This was a high level college soccer match," said head coach Glenn Crooks. "I have nothing but admiration for not only what we did today but what we did all season. And you can't even comment about who we don't have because it's who we had that got us here. And we gave ourselves enough opportunities to win the match today, that's all I know, it just didn't happen."
In the final seconds of the game, RU forced South Carolina goalkeeper Mollie Patton to make her strongest save of the afternoon.
Off a corner kick, senior goalkeeper Erin Guthrie — who was playing up on offense in the game's final minute — drilled a ball into the box that RU defender Rheanne Sleiman nearly headed into the net, but Patton came out and barely got in front of the ball.
"I think that final play was apropos of this season," Crooks said. "We fought until the end and it certainly is symbolic of how it went this season."
RU fell behind midway through the first half and actually controlled the run of play throughout most of the second half. RU played with only two backs in the games final stretch, leading to scoring opportunities for both teams late in the second half.
Besides Sleiman's header in the last minute, RU came just a couple of feet from tying the match in the 85th minute when freshman midfielder Maura McLaughlin sent an open shot just over the crossbar. In total, the Gamecocks outshot the Knights 11-9, with Guthrie making five saves to Patton's three.
"Statistically, it turned out to be a pretty even match," Crooks said. "They had the run of it for a while and then we had the run of it. So I have no complaints about the result, because we did have opportunities to go ahead early on or equalize as the game progressed."
The Knights played on their heels for most of the first half. RU applied pressure initially, firing two quality shots in the half's opening minutes, but from there, they could not hold possession for more than a few passes at a time.
Though both teams only took three shots in the half, it was the unrelenting pressure from the Gamecocks (19-3-2) that eventually led to forward Brooke Jacobs netting an unplayable ball in the 35th minute. The ball was a give-and-go that Maria Petroni crossed to Jacobs, who placed the ball into an open net.
"I'm disappointed because it was a winnable game," Crooks said. "But that's part of how soccer goes. They got a great opportunity and scored on it."
The loss comes after the Knights (14-4-4) turned in a 2-0 win in a solid first round match against Duke.
Junior midfielder Kelsey Dumont and freshman forward April Price netted the two goals in the win.